Albrecht Dürer

The Knight, Death, and the Devil

1513
The knight here symbolizes the life of the Christian in the practical world of decision and action, a concept related to the writings of the humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. In his Handbook of the Christian Soldier of 1504, Erasmus demanded that “all those spooks and phantoms which come upon you as in the very gorges of Hades must be deemed for naught after the example of Virgil’s Aeneas.” (According to The Aeneid, Aeneas founded Rome after surviving the fall of Troy as well as many hardships on his journey to Italy.) The horned Devil with a face resembling a wild boar sneaks up on the knight from behind with a pickaxe. Death, wearing a crown and encircled by snakes, holds an hourglass to taunt the knight. The dog represents Faith as an untiring companion. In the Renaissance, the salamander was thought to be impervious to flame and could extinguish fires, which complements the fearlessness of the knight in the presence of Death and the Devil.
Title
The Knight, Death, and the Devil
Date
1513
Medium
Print
Materials
engraving on laid paper, with japan paper borders
Dimensions
24.7 x 18.9 cm
Nationality
German
Credit line
Purchased 1921
Accession number
1836

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